Detroit - Toyota has released the first teaser pic of its next-generation Camry ahead of the sedan's world debut at the Detroit Motor Show in January, and the image hints at a more rakish, sportier look, something the Camry has lacked for years.

But is the Camry still relevant? It might be North America's top-selling sedan, but buyers are moving away from cars toward SUVs and pick-ups.

Toyota gave few details about the eighth-generation Camry, which was last redesigned for the 2013 model year, but it's likely to be a full redesign.

Sales of traditional cars have been slumping in the US as consumers take advantage of cheap petrol by buying SUVs and pick-ups - which make up about 60 percent of the country's sales.

Toyota is hoping the new version will boost Camry sales, which are down 9.4 percent through November. While it admits that the car may soon be outsold by Toyota's Rav4 compact SUV, Toyota expects the Camry to remain the top-selling sedan for the foreseeable future. The Camry, incidentally, has not been sold in South Africa for more than a decade.

"It's possible that Camry would be the No.1 sedan, but the No.1 Toyota could be a RAV4," said Bob Carter, Toyota's senior vice president of automotive operations.

A redesigned Camry should boost sales in a declining segment, but it might not help the Camry that much since competitors already are sleek and sporty, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for the LMC Automotive consulting firm.

"They are very late to the game from a styling and performance perspective," Schuster said. "Unless there's some new technology that leapfrogs them over cars today, it's going to be really challenging to get much of a lift out of the new vehicle."

AP & IOL